Wildflowers in Norway

Norsk Botanisk Forening

Although it´s white and quite cold during winter, Norway is full of colours and life in summer. Beaches, mountains and meadows get covered with beautiful flowers, trees and bushes, accompanied by thousands of insect that find food and shelter in and among the vegetation.  In total, more than 2100 species of flower plants have been recorded for Norway, along with around 42 species of coniferous trees, 75 fern like plants and 1100 species of bryophytes (liverworths, hornworths and mosses). 

 All uncultivated land in Norway is open for access to everyone at any time. This means that there are endless opportunities to go out and look at all the fantastic plants that inhabit the country. And you don’t even have to go far; even your own garden, lawn or playground contains plenty of plant secrets! 


The seasons
In the south, the first flowers start blooming as early as in March, as soon as the days become warmer and brighter. Typical early wild flowers are pussy willow/ selje (Salix caprea) and coltsfoot/ hestehov (Tussilago farfara), that both have yellow flowers.  

At the same time, the first insects wake up after the long winter. Most flowering plants are always eager to have insect visitors, because that means they can spread their pollen and produce new seeds for the following year. Visiting insects usually get drizzled with pollen as they eat, and then they shake off some of that pollen on the next flower they visit. This, in turn, initiates the development of a brand new seed. Insect pollination is of great importance, both globally and in Norway.

Depending on where in the country you are situated, you can find flowers in the wild from March and throughout October. However, the peak flowering time is during the main summer months of June, July and August. The mean temperature of July is around 15 °C in the most southern parts of Norway, and around 10 in the northenmost parts.  

Throughout summer, more and more plants will grow and develop flowers, and soon they might also have produced fruits.  

Wildflowers in Norway
When the ice retracted after the last ice age 12 000 years ago, Norwegian land was once again available for colonization by plants. A few species had survived the long winter in restricted snow free areas in Norway, but most of the vegetation that started to pop up arrived from other places. Some of the first plant colonizers were birch/bjørk (Betula), hazel/hassel (Corylus) and pine trees/furu (Pinus), as well as dwarf willow/dvergbjørk (Salix herbacea) and white dryas/reinrose (Dryas octopetala). Even though we are not completely covered by ice anymore, climate and geography is still restraining plant life throughout the country.  

Norway is a very long and heterogeneous country, spanning 13 latitudinal degrees from south to north and with prominent coastlines and high mountains. It is therefore not so surprising that the plants living here do not all live in the same areas. Some plants thrive in the south, while some like it in the north. Some prefer to be close to the ocean, while others have established in the highland and in mountains. Many only live where there is plenty of lime, while some are not that fond of nutrient rich areas.  In other words: the wild flowers of Norway prefer very different localities.  


Geographic position and human activities shape species´ distribution 
Based on altitude above sea level, we can broadly categorize Norwegian nature into subboreal deciduous forests, temperate coniferous forests, birch forests, and alpine areas. The position and dimensions of the regions vary across the country, but combined, they comprise most of Norways natural vegetation. If we count the archipelago of Svalbard, we have to add arctic landscape to the list.  

The flora in each of these regions has been shaped not just by climate, but also through thousands of years of human activities. Today, a significant number of species of wild plants depend almost entirely on open land facilitated by farming or grazing. Regrowth after abandoned agricultural land is considered a threat towards biodiversity. Interestingly, a large portion of what we today consider to be Norwegian wild flowers, were originally brought here by humans to use as decoration, food or medicine. 

Some examples of wild flowers that thrive in agricultural areas are meadow buttercup/ engsoleie (Ranunculus acris), timothy- grass/ timotei (Phleum pratense), sheep’s sorrel/ engsyre (Rumex acetosa), tufted vetch/  fuglevikke (Vicia cracca) and germander speedwell/ tveskjeggveronika (Veronica chamaedrys) 


Common wild flowers
You can find several plants along the coast that don’t exist in the inland, examples are English Yew/ barlind (Taxus baccata), common holly/ kristtorn (Ilex aquifolium), common ivy/ bergflette (Hedera helix), foxglove/ revebjelle (Digitalis purpurea) and cross- leaved heath/ klokkelyng (Erica tetralix). Some plants that don’t like coastal areas are German tamarisk/ klåved ( Myricaria germanica), spring pasqueflower/ mogop (Pulsatilla vernalis) and February daphne/ tysbast (Daphne mezereum). 

Subboreal decidiouc forest is found only in the lowland in the southern coastal areas of Norway. Many places where we today find cultural landscapes would have been vegetated by deciduous forests if climate alone were shaping the area. Some characteristic tree species of such forests are oak/ eik (Quercus.), maple/ lønn (Acer), elm/ alm (Ulmus), ash/ ask (Fraxinus), alder/ svartor (Alnus Glutinosa) and hazel/ hassel (Corylus).  

Mountains and northern areas
In the high alpine landscape, mosses and lichen dominate, but wild flowers such as trailing azealea/ grepplyng (Kalmia procumbens), Shetland Mouse- ear/ snøarve (Cerastium nigrescens) and alpine bearberry/ rypebær (Arctostaphylos alpina) all find spots suitable for them to grow in.  

Further down the mountain you will typically find a belt of salix bushes, interspersed with e.g., red campion/ rød jonsokblom (Silene dioica), alpine sawwort/ fjelltistel (Saussurea alpina) and yellow mountain saxifrage/ gulsildre (Saxifraga aizoides).